One of the things that kept me from starting a blog for a long time was the lack of a suitable name.
The name of the blog, “Thou art lightning and love” comes from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Wreck of the Deutschland.” Hopkins was a Jesuit Priest and is one of the great poets in all of British literature.
I return to Hopkins’ poetry again and again because in it I find a companion on the journey of faith. Hopkins has helped me to make sense of the awful beauty of the grace of God. God’s grace is a grace that judges, that purges away our sin. In his poetry Hopkins gives voice to the deep pain and woundedness that can accompany the grace of God.
“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account’ (Hebrews 4.12-13).
Hopkins writes of God, “Thou art lightning and love” as if to say that the triune God is like a bolt of lightning in a fierce summer storm but who is also, at the same time, tender and nurturing like an intoxicated lover. And this, I think, is the God of Scripture, the God made known in Christ.
Hopkins knew that even though at times it feels as if God is our enemy—that God is ruthless and relentless in his desire to save and redeem—it is the triune God who heals, who binds up our wounds, who breaks us only to piece us back together and make us whole again.
Be adored among men,
God, three-numbered form;
Wring they rebel, dogged in den,
Men’s malice, with wrecking and storm.
Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue,
Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm;
Father and fondler of heart thou hast wrung;
Hast thy dark descending and most merciful then.